52 of 55 people found the following review helpful
on September 22, 2010
For many years, we've been taught the comforting narrative of the civil rights movement as a series of nonviolent protests, led by ministers, that so moved the hearts of northern white America that the courts and the government ruled and legislated white supremacy out of existence. Danielle McGuire's At the Dark End of the Street rewrites the story, affirms the pivotal role of black women in the freedom movement, and locates its origins in the most horrific realities of the Jim Crow south. It's a gripping, essential read for anyone who wants to understand the forces that drove the movement into high gear in the 1950s and '60s: namely, the night-riding ritual of white-on-black rape and the decades-long struggle of black women to stand up to these attacks when the police and the courts would not. McGuire traces this struggle back a decade before the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott through the efforts of none other than Rosa Parks--whose "tired feet" became a movement symbol that overshadowed her militancy--to investigate and publicize Alabama rape cases as an NAACP field secretary. McGuire powerfully relates the story of violence and resistance and sacrifice and triumph over 30 years, into the 1970s, and does a masterful job of setting the record straight. If you're at all interested in understanding why this country had to change, how it did change, and who changed it, At the Dark End of the Street is an absolute must-read.
20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on January 26, 2011
I could not put it down -- a powerful proof that the Southern black women's movement worked for decades to make the Rosa Parks Moment happen most powerfully, and to make the realizing of King's Dreams possible to start happening meaningfully as soon as he uttered them.
Without those groups, the economically profitable practice of treating humans like animals [or worse] could have spread across the whole world of commerce and become irredeemably entrenched, and "liberty and justice for all" would have remained a lie on the lips of every one of us white Americans -- a lie that we renewed every time we pledged allegiance to our flag.
These women showed us a path upon which we could rescue our own morality from the filthiest level of quality, and they put a bright light on the truth that folks who witness evil and do nothing become defacto participants in that evil -- guilty of doing nothing about states of ours that called the privilege-of-raping black women a fringe benefit for police officers and bus drivers; guilty of giving that privilege also to every morally empty white man or teenager by assuring them zero punishment.
A great book by a marvelously careful author who wrote with super clarity, and did research and documentation that -- in footnotes -- made credibility a sure thing. I saw zero 'spin'.
Buying from Amazon was my quickest and least expensive way to buy, and their delivery to me was -- just barely -- within their promised 14 day time spread. All in all I give Amazon my top rating.
28 of 33 people found the following review helpful
on September 26, 2010
For years, I have read mostly fiction because, at the end of a day of working and chores and such, I usually want to read something that is lovely and that rolls along, frankly, without much effort. I want to visit another world and peer into other lives. At best, I want to be inspired. At worst, I want to be entertained and to not be annoyed by poorly written prose. Through the years, because I want my reading to inform my perception of the real world, I have gravitated more and more toward fiction that is written in order to illuminate a particular time or an actual human struggle.
Although Danielle McGuire's At the Dark End of the Street is a solidly researched history book (with an attendant fat section of fascinating endnotes) it met all of my requirements, and impressed me enough that I am taking the time to recommend it to you. It is beautifully written and zips along, lining up stories that lead naturally one to the other. Each evening, as with a good novel, I was anxious to get back to the book to see what was happening to its protagonists. This book deals with a harsh and real world, but peoples that world with women who inspire through their willingness to make their tragedies public, and to tell truth to power even though that power could reload and hurt them, and those they loved, again and again. I hope that McGuire's book will be read widely, because it will challenge the Great Man narratives that predominate in our public telling of the civil rights movement and help us to recognize the potential that ordinary people, speaking bravely and honestly, can have to change the course of history. But perhaps my favorite aspect of this brutal but uplifting history is that it illuminates the power of testimony as a personal and social and political act.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on July 30, 2012
Seriously. Out of all of the history books that i read in high school and in the libraries, this was the only one that actually CLICKED for me. The rampant rape of black women throughout slavery and the Jim Crow Era has always been ignored or quickly dismissed in historical books before but this great author made sure to NOT do that! I love her for that! This book needs to be made into a movie one day! This will be the first time where our stories will be told thoroughly.
I watched The Help, and it failed to mention the sexual assaults and rapes that the black women suffered. Although i enjoyed the movie somewhat, i was still disappointed because they refused to let our REAL stories get told. You can't have a good story set in the Jim Crow era without telling the rampant rapes of black women by white men and other men. It's part of our history. Whether many people want to admit it or not!
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on December 30, 2011
The most salient part of this book is the perspective. The look at the beginnings of the civil rights movement from the eyes of Black women, who are often pushed to the margins in historical works, was a welcome addition to the civil rights historical canon. Because Ms. McGuire centered her book in this way, the reader will learn the names of women here, that contributed mightily to the struggle for not only civil rights but human dignity. For those who have read little history, you will find information about icons like Rosa Parks that goes beyond the standard high school fare. Other historical figures will be properly placed, as to their roles in pivotal events like the Montgomery Bus boycott. And for the well versed in civil rights history, much of this may be familiar ground. Claudette Colvin is certainly a familiar name for this crowd, however I doubt Rosa Lee Ingram is similiarly intimate. It is the stories of these women, that become the launching point for discussions around sexual terrorism that makes this book well worth the investment. I don't think we understand how deeply the lives of Black families were impacted by sexual terrorism, At The Dark End of the Street, does a very good job of illuminating the horror. This one should be added to your collection!
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on January 9, 2011
I have always known the fight for civil rights had its roots in the middle class. It wasn't poor sharecroppers who wanted equal access to the lunch counter. But I was really surprised how the Montgomery bus boycott started with women fed up with the indiscriminate sexual violence by white men and how the judicial system turned a blind eye to their efforts to bring their attackers to justice.
HOWEVER... in order for the boycott to succeed, E.D. Nixon and other middle class blacks, put Parks on a pedestal similiar to her white middle class counterpart, portraying her as a scion of black republican motherhood. Unlike the two other girls before her who had been arrested for violating the segregation law, she has light skin, was middle class and had no scandalous demons to hide ( the first girl, Claudette Colvin, was a pregnant teenager). In fact Nixon took great pains to hide Parks work for the NAACP as a field reporter,and activist.
E.D. Nixon and other ministers who formed the Montgomery Improvement Association completely bogarted all of the organizational efforts of Joanne Robinson and other women who began efforts to boycott local merchants as early as the late 1940's after the attack of local teen by a grocery store owner. No women were allowed in the organization in a leadership position and their names were not on the letterhead.
This book is amazing and I am only on page 80! It is a must read if not for a history of civil rights but as a real awakening of the class and gender issues perculating within the movement itself!
16 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on October 29, 2010
Most Americans have only the slightest notions about what was really behind the 1960's civil rights movement. Even though I was a baby boomer who was raised in Detroit, (certainly a racially mixed city), I had no concept of the real motivations behind the great social changes which actually began in the 1950's.
Dr Danielle McGuire is a member of The Organization of American Historians Distinguished Leadership Program. Serving as an assistant professor at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan focuses her research and writing interests on the role of African American Women in the civil rights movement. She explores this era in her captivating book, At the Dark End of the Street, which describes the events leading up to this crucial period
"Sex is the principal around which the whole structure of segregation is organized". As the opening quotation in her book , McGuire immediately confronts us with her primary theme. In the book McGuire describes the sexual terror and violence suffered by African American women and how significant a part they played in the civil rights movement. More importantly she explores the sexual exploitation of southern African American women, by southern white men. The author devotes a substantial portion of the book to the important role black women played in not only starting the movement, but also by providing organization, fund raising and support without which the movement could never have been successful. With these women serving as central to the work, McGuire also provides a tremendous amount of information concerning the civil rights movement itself.
Furthermore the author explains how difficult a task it was for this exploitation to be challenged in the courts by African American women. McGuire identifies this exploitation as the primary factor behind the struggle between whites and African Americans since slavery. Despite segregationist cries against a "mixed breed society" and defense of the white women's honor, McGuire feels that the real civil rights issues centered around the ability of southern white men to have free sexual access to the African American community. She cites countless examples through her narrative clearly demonstrating the validity of her ideas.
McGuire uses the stories of the sexual violence not only to shock the reader but also to educate the reader as to the experience of being a Black female victim of sexual violence in the 1950's. Ranging from 1940 through 1975, At the Dark End of the Street traces the history of several black women, all victims of sexual violence, who were important to the civil rights movement. These women include, but are not limited to: Recy Taylor, Gertrude Perkins, Flossie Hardman, Annette Butler, Betty Jean Owen, Fannie Lou Hammer and Joan Little. A group of 7 white men raped Recy Taylor in 1944: Two white policemen raped Gertrude Perkins in 1949, A young white male raped Flossie Hardman after she had babysat for his family in 1951; Four white males took 16 yr old Annette Butler from her home and raped her: Four white men kidnapped Betty Jean Owens from a car, took her to an isolated spot and raped her in 1959; A doctor performed a forced hysterectomy on Fannie Lou Hammer, during a procedure to remove a small cyst in1961: A sheriffs deputy molested and raped Joan Little in her jail cell in 1974. Maguire also demonstrates how these women and their cases, prior to the 1956 bus boycott, played such an integral role in creating a foundation for the bus boycott. The bus boycott was more than just a struggle for a seat on the bus, it was the pinnacle of a struggle for the dignity of black women throughout the south.
Recy Taylor, the first victim described in the book was twenty four at the time of the crime. She was walking down a country road, in Abbeville Alabama, with friends when a car carrying seven white males stopped on the road. The men confronted Recy with the story that she had been accused of knifing someone earlier in the day. Although both she and her companions denied her involvement since they had been together that day, the white men persuaded Taylor that she needed to come with them. One of the men said, "If she's not the one, we will bring her right back". The men took Taylor to a nearby pecan grove where six of them raped her. The men then drove Recy Taylor to the main highway and dropped her off with no concern for her welfare or for the fact that she might complain to the authorities
McGuire's telling certainly illustrates that these men had absolutely no fear in kidnapping and raping Recy Taylor. They did not hide their faces nor try to conceal the vehicle they were in. Nor was Taylor blindfold during the abduction and subsequent rape. She could clearly identify her assailants. In fact, some of her assailants were actually her neighbors. The pure arrogance of the act demonstrated the men's confidence that the southern judicial system would not prosecute them for acts of violence against African American women. Despite the two grand juries that were formed to investigate the case, none of these men would ever be prosecuted for the crime. What is most remarkable about the case is the courage and fortitude which Recy Taylor demonstrated in telling her family, the police and a jury about the horrendous crime which had taken place. She was a very brave woman to expose her shame on such a public stage.
On March 27, 1949 Gertrude Perkins was walking home from a party in Montgomery Alabama when she was arrested by two white police officers. Smelling beer on her breath, the two officers ordered her to get in their squad car as they accused her of public drunkenness. When she refused they forced Perkins into the backseat. The officers then drove to a railroad embankment and proceeded to rape her several times at gunpoint. When they finished, the officers took Perkins back to where they found her and dumped her in the middle of town. Once more, these events describe an incident where the assailants did nothing to hide who they were and where they were from. The fact that they were local white policemen who knew the legal system, further demonstrates that southern white males knew absolutely nothing would happen to a white male who raped a black female. The local authorities did nothing to pursue the case. After several organizing efforts and pressure on a national level a grand jury was formed to investigate the case. The grand jury found no grounds for prosecuting the officer in question.
In 1951, Sam E Green, a white grocery store owner in Montgomery Alabama, who employed fifteen year old Flossie Hardman as a babysitter, drove her home at the end of the evening. Instead of taking her home, he pulled to the side of a quiet road and raped her. This crime was especially brutal considering the girl was an adolescent. Obviously, even the threat of statutory rape was not enough to discourage Green from attacking Hardman. After a considerable amount of protest by the African American community, Green was brought to trial. An all white jury found him innocent after deliberating for only five minutes. The outcome in this case absolutely enraged the black community. Despite the fact that there was overwhelming evidence that she had been raped, the defendant was released without so much as a slap on the hands. These cases served to provide further tinder to the flame of discontent which was building in the black community.
On Mother's Day, May 13, 1956, four white males went looking for "some colored women" . The .men took weapons including, a sawed off shotgun, and approached an African American man who was preparing for work. The men ordered the African American man to take them to the house where there were some black women inside. They were lead to the house of a sixteen year old African American girl, Annette Butler. She was sleeping in bed with her mother. The teenager was pulled out of bed while the men pointed a shotgun at her mother who they threatened to kill. The men forced the girl into their car and drove to a local swamp. After raping her, the white males left her at the scene. Once again the arrogance of southern white men was described by the author. Not only did these men involve the victim, but also a total stranger who could tie them to the victim and the victim's mother. Although justice was partially served when the four men were given long term sentences, their total disregard for the law demonstrates southern white male confidence that they would not suffer any punishment. What is particularly notable about this case is that it took place in Mississippi. This was the first instance where a white male was given a strong jail sentence for the rape of a black woman.
In addition to doing an excellent job detailing the cases of sexual violence, McGuire goes one step further when she describes the difficulty experienced by these women and their families in attempting to go to the authorities for each of the victims. Not only had the victims felt the trauma associated with the crime, they now had to face an even bigger obstacle. Victims would have to make public their humiliation. More importantly, they would have to face the perpetrators responsible for these crimes. Victims were subjected to death threats, house bombings and abuse in their own towns. Although they all had a support base, many African Americans felt that the proactive stance was dangerous to their community and would only fostered more discontent between the African American and white communities. Most white and many black ministers believed in taking a passive role in these matters and segregation as a while. They felt that things were changing and through the passage of time these injustices would be corrected. McGuire clearly shows the bravery and fortitude of these women and their willingness to take a stand against the southern white supremacist legal system. McGuire firmly believes that the stand taken by these women against violence was critical in the breaking down segregation in the south. Leon A. Lowery, who was head of the Florida state NAACP said after the case that it would help "Negroes more in the long run" by setting a precedent for equal justice in future rape case.
The book spends a good deal of time describing some of the other very important women in the early days of civil rights. Rosa Perkins, Joann Robinson, and Georgia Gilmore were examples of women who played a major rule in the early days of the civil rights movement. Their actions and support during the Montgomery Bus Boycott were critical to the success of the boycott.
McGuire is a passionate author who wastes no time in bringing her message to her audience. The opening quotation of her book is "Sex is the principle around which the whole structure of segregation is organized." This statement succinctly describes McGuire's ideas regarding segregation. Just the title, At the Dark End of The Street conveys the message that what is contained within the book is dark and terrifying. McGuire has a very special skill in not only conveying interesting stories of each victim, but in telling stories for which she has sympathy and compassion. McGuire develops each story so that we not only see the victim but we see that each of these women are heroines demonstrating tremendous courage in the face of a southern judicial system which has ignored them for two hundred years. The bravery that these women demonstrated became an integral part of the foundation for the civil rights movement of the 1960's.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on February 12, 2015
This book is simply outstanding. It is a treasure trove of mostly unknown Black history.
I'm in my sixties, and as a young girl I wondered why my mother, my aunts, and so many other older black women I knew were so loath to wear reveling or tight clothing. For example, I particularly noticed an unwillingness to put on swim suits, to go swimming. I had just put it down as prudishness or as their trying to "be a good Christian." But after reading this book, the pieces fell into place. My mom and her sisters were born in Mississippi in the 1920s. Now I can see why they were taught not to wear clothing that might draw the attention of a man inclined to sexual abuse. Knowing they had no legal protection against the type of outrages outlined in this book, they did everything possible to downplay their sexuality out of a sense of self preservation.
I am myself a published author. I am impressed with the author's writing style. It is clear and concise, but still lively.
I had the honor of interviewing Rosa Parks for my university's newspaper when I was in college. I was very interested in reading about her in this book, which revealed that her role in initiating the Civil Rights movement to be so much more than is generally known.
A well written book full of little known information that should be shared with every American citizen, as it is an integral part of our country's past.
11 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on September 26, 2010
The first chapter was so upsetting, I didn't know if I could continue, but am so glad I did. I'd begun to learn that Rosa Parks was not simply physically tired, but not all she'd done before that fateful day. Reading this put many aspects of the Civil Rights movement in perspective, and I couldn't put it down. The footnotes helped, and it was in no way dry as some dissertation based books are.
Although not the point of her book, I gained a sense of why women usually became background workers,and how black men felt both guilty and shamed because they couldn't (didn't dare!) protect their wormen.
My only confusion was in McGuire's use of honorifics. Sometimes women were introduced as "Mrs." and sometimes not, and I couldn't find a pattern. I've loaned the book out, so can't check, but I don't think any men were addressed as "Mr.". It's as if the point of view changed from conventions from that perioed to those of the present, but not consistently. I wrote to the author and she said she tried to follow how people were addressed in various contexts.
The book is personal to me because I grew up in Detroit and my brother worked for the Civil Rights Commisssion in 1962-1963, but I think this book is important for all of us. Rape as an instrument of terror and control still exists throughout the world, and I'll no longer be able to think it'd never be like that in America.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on March 10, 2013
I had no idea. This was tough to read, yet I could not put it down. Ms/Mrs. McGuire has provided an angle to the civil rights story that is not being told, and that certainly has to be given equal time to the very comfortable story, that the Rosa Parks-inspired Movement was a spontaneous beginning, when in fact it was not. The story of Black women as victims, and then the principal organizers and leaders of the Montgomery Boycott is the story whose time has come. Thank you for exposing the sexual brutality of White men toward Black women; thank you for such extensive documentation. Remarkable. Thank you for arming those of us who tell this story time again, with another truth about the underlying causes of White bigotry and the resultant Movement.Thank you for giving us more reason to revere and honor our Black women, who endured so much as victims, and then in their fight for justice and equality. I will never teach the story of the Civil Rights Movement the same again.